Opposing Proposed Rezoning of Land on South Side of Northern Boulevard between Douglaston and Bayside
May 15, 2022
Hon. Vickie Paladino
New York City Council
20-15 Francis Lewis Blvd
Whitestone, NY 11357
Re: Proposed rezoning of land on the south side of Northern Boulevard, between 231st and 234th Streets
Dear Councilmember Paladino:
At the May 14, 2022 meeting of the Westmoreland Association the membership voted unanimously to express our opposition to the proposed rezoning of the above-referenced land, which abuts Alley Pond Park. These parcels are currently occupied by a number of business including a restaurant, a car wash, a car maintenance shop, and others. (At least one building in this stretch has been vacant for several years.) The land in question is currently zoned R1-2. The businesses here are operating on variances from that zoning designation. The proposal is to create a C2-2 commercial overlay on the R1-2 residential zoning.
In the 1960s, the community was promised that most of the land on both sides of Northern Boulevard, between Douglaston Parkway and the Cross Island Parkway in Bayside, would in due course be acquired by New York City for inclusion in Alley Pond Park. Indeed, that happened with most of the parcels on the north side of Northern Boulevard, including a Ford car dealership planned for a parcel west of Douglaston Parkway; the DeCombo auto salvage yard on the west side of Alley Creek; and a small amusement park called Kiddie City on the east side of Alley Creek (where the Douglaston Golf Driving Range, a Parks Department concessionaire, is now located). These parcels are all now part of Alley Pond Park. The City also acquired the land west of Alley Creek on the south side of Northern Boulevard – formerly the site of a garden furniture store, that land is the present location of the Alley Pond Environmental Center, a Parks Department tenant.
We oppose the zoning change for the above-referenced parcels because we believe that the highest and best use of that land would be eventual acquisition by the New York City Parks Department, followed by removal of the structures, environmental restoration (including remediation of contaminated soil that may be necessary, particularly for the auto repair locations), and incorporation into the adjacent Alley Pond Park.
Importantly, and of immediate concern to our organization, we believe that rezoning these parcels will allow for their over-development, with attendant traffic congestion, in a way that would be much less likely to occur if the area remains zoned as it has been for the past 60 years, with the commercial uses being regulated through the variance procedure. The C2-2 zone would allow, as of right, buildings with a floor-area ration of 1.0 – twice the size permitted as of right under the existing R1-2 zone.
The restaurant that currently operates near the west end of this stretch of Norther Boulevard has proposed a significant expansion to establish a catering hall – more than tripling its current size, with some 200 parking spaces. Similar expansions and new construction can be projected for the other parcels that would be affected by the proposed rezoning, with serious adverse traffic consequences for a thoroughfare that is already heavily congested during many hours of the day.
Maintaining the current zoning provides for greater community control over what kinds of businesses may operate on these parcels, and the size of the structures on those parcels. We note that each of the companies operating on these parcels understood the zoning when their businesses were established there; and they understood the legal processes available to them to maintain or alter their operations and their footprint. There is nothing unfair about maintaining the current zoning. Maintaining the current zoning will also make it easier and less expensive for possible eventual acquisition in the future for one or more of the parcels on the south side of Northern Boulevard.
As you know, other local civic and conservation groups also oppose the rezoning; and on May 2 Community Board 11 voted unanimously that the current zoning should be maintained.
cc: Community Board 11
Supporting Recognition of Architectural Districts Within New York City
March 25, 2016
Hon. Tony Avella
New York State Senate
38-50 Bell Boulevard Suite
Bayside, NY 11361
RE: Bill Number S6958
Dear Senator Avella:
We write to express our support of the above-referenced bill that would promote the creation and recognition of architectural districts within New York City. The bill was discussed at our general membership meeting on March 21, 2016, and the members present voted nearly unanimously to support the objectives of this legislation.
We recognize that among the motivations for this legislative proposal is the slow pace and highly restrictive nature of historic district designation. This legislation would create an alternative and less stringent pathway through which a community can protect its architectural heritage and maintain the character of their neighborhood.
Thank you for your continued efforts to help us maintain the integrity of our unique residential neighborhoods!
cc: Hon. Edward Braunstein, New York State Assembly
Opposing Certain Proposed Zoning Rule Changes
November 21, 2015
Hon. Paul Vallone
New York City Council
42-40 Bell Boulevard, Suite 507
Bayside, NY 11361
Dear Councilman Vallone:
We write to endorse the positions you have recently taken on two issues of considerable local importance – the City Planning Commission’s “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” (ZQA) text amendment proposal; and your resolution calling on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to amend the North Shore helicopter route to extend west to cover Northeast Queens.
These two issues were discussed at length during our General Membership meeting on November 21, 2015. The members voted unanimously to endorse your FAA resolution; and voted unanimously (with one absention) to oppose the ZQA.
As you know, the Westmoreland Association represents the Westmoreland community in the northeast corner of Queens County. Our community is bounded generally by Northern Boulevard on the south; Little Neck Parkway on the west; the Long Island Railroad on the north; and Nassau Road on the east.
The ZQA proposal would amend the zoning rules to encourage larger building developments, and would increase the permissible floor-to-area ratio for certain kinds of developments. Although well meaning and intended to address a legitimate concern, namely the lack of affordable housing in the City for senior citizens among others, the ZQA is misguided in its approach. We in the Westmoreland Association, like the members of so many other civic associations throughout the residential areas of Queens and the other Boroughs, have worked for many years to maintain our quality of life and prevent the over-development of local communities. We share the concern of our colleagues across the city that the ZQA proposal could overturn the contextual zoning changes for which we have worked so long. Among other concerns, we disagree with the element of the ZQA that would reduce the number of parking spaces builders would be required to provide. It is already nearly impossible to find on-street parking in much of our City; this proposal will aggravate an unacceptable situation. While the specific provisions of the ZQA proposal will not directly affect the Westmoreland community, we are proud to stand in solidarity with our neighbors who live in the communities that will be affected. We urge that the currently proposed zoning text amendments be rejected.
We likewise strongly support your resolution calling on the FAA to extend the North Shore helicopter route to include Northeast Queens. The North Shore route was established by the FAA to reduce noise from helicopters flying over residential areas of Nassau and Suffolk, by having them fly over water to the extent possible. The route currently ends at the Queens/Nassau border, but the same need to reduce noise exists with respect to helicopters flying over Northeast Queens. We encourage the City Council to pass this resolution and work directly with the FAA to see that it is implemented.
cc: Hon. Melinda Katz, Queens Borough President
Supporting Proposals Regarding the Department of Buildings
May 27, 2007
Hon. Frank Padavan
New York State Senate
89-39 Gettysburg Street
Bellerose, NY 11426
Hon. James F. Brennan
New York State Assembly
416 Seventh Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Re: Legislative Package to Improve Regulation and Enforcement of Development in New York City
The Westmoreland Association is a homeowners’ association representing the Westmoreland area of Little Neck, Queens, in New York City. This area is bounded generally by Northern Boulevard on the south, Little Neck Parkway on the west, 39th Road on the north, and Nassau Road on the east.
At the organization’s General Membership meeting of May 21, 2007 the members present voted unanimously to endorse the above-referenced package of legislation. The bills in question include A7745/S5422; A7800/S5223; A7755/S5407; A7746/S4603; A7744/S5410; A7748/S5246; and A7747/S5441.
Our endorsement was qualified only to the extent our members expressed concern that some of these pieces of legislation do not go far enough to make needed changes in the practices of the Department of Buildings. For example, there was consensus that: A7755/S5407 should apply to all violations, not just hazardous violations. Similarly, our members felt that A7746/S4603 should require, not merely allow DOB to refuse to accept filings from those found to have knowingly or negligently submitted false documents (at least for a specified period of time, e.g., four or five years).
Most important, there was a strong consensus among our members that A7745/S5422 should prohibit issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy not only until all fines and penalties are paid, but also until all violative conditions are fully corrected. In our own community, the Department of Buildings last year issued a Certificate of Occupancy for a house that had knowingly been constructed nearly 20% closer to the sideline than permitted by zoning. Payment of a few thousand dollars in fines that may or may not have been imposed for this violation, without requiring the builder to correct the violation, is worse than useless – it actually makes a mockery of the zoning requirements. Despite frequent complaints and requests from the adjacent homeowner, our organization and our New York City Councilman Tony Avella, the Department of Buildings never responded to our complaints about this violation, and never responded to any inquiries about why the Certificate was issued despite our repeated and timely complaints.
Nevertheless, we agree that there are valuable and important elements in the legislative package, which is why we unanimously endorse that package. Among the elements our members thought most useful were the provision in A7745/S5422 empowering Community Boards to request up to 30 audits per year; and the technical assistance grant in A7747/S5441.
We thank you both for sponsoring this package of legislation.
cc: Hon. Tony Avella, New York City Council
Testimony of Walter Mugdan, President of the Westmoreland Association, Before the New York City Council Zoning Committee
December 14, 2006
Concerning the Proposed Rezoning of Certain Portions of Little Neck and Douglaston, Queens
My name is Walter Mugdan. I serve as president of the Westmoreland Association, a homeowners association which represent about 335 homes in the Westmoreland section of Little Neck. About 85% of these homes are located within the current New York City R2 zone.
The Westmoreland Association strongly and enthusiastically supports the proposal to rezone all of our R2 areas to the new R2A designation. We have had a lot of concerns with demolition of existing houses and replacement with over-sized houses, often called “McMansions.” We believe the R2A designation will help maintain the character of our neighborhood and limit the severe over-building of recent years in our area and neighboring communities.
I would like to take a moment to explain to you how the Westmoreland Association developed its position on this matter, because I think the process is important in weighing the outcome.
When the R2A rezoning for our area was originally proposed some 21 months ago, we distributed to every house a flyer announcing the proposal, saying it would affect most homes in our area and would be discussed at our March 2005 meeting. That meeting was well attended – nearly 20% of the affected households were represented.
At the meeting we had a presentation by City Councilman Tony Avella. We distributed fact sheets with copies from the New York City Planning Department web site. Additional information was provided by two architects from our community (one a member of our Board of Directors). At the end of the extended discussion, a motion carried unanimously that the Association go on record to support the R2A rezoning.
As always, minutes of the meeting were posted on our web site. We also posted a detailed description of the proposal, with links to the City Planning Department website.
We have discussed the proposal again at each of our six subsequent meetings (May, September and November, 2005, and March, May and September, 2006). At every meeting, I urged individuals to make their views – pro or con – known to the relevant government officials.
At our September `05 meeting I explained that the City Planning Department had asked the civic associations representing the Douglaston-Little Neck area to work together in an effort to provide a consensus position on the rezoning plan. We distributed copies of the Department’s detailed draft map. A motion carried unanimously authorizing me to work with the other civic groups and the Department to further the R2A rezoning proposal.
At the November `05 meeting, I proposed to write to our local newspaper, The Little Neck Ledger, expressing concern over misinformation about the R2A proposal that was then being circulated in another community. The attendees voiced unanimous support, and I wrote that letter.
At our September ‘06 meeting I reported on the hearing held earlier that month by Community Board 11, and stated that I would be testifying at additional hearings on the issue, including this one before the City Council Zoning Committee; all present were again supportive.
I believe it is important for you to understand that our members have had ample and extensive opportunity to learn about, and be heard concerning the R2A rezoning proposal. The issue has been discussed at seven consecutive meetings of the organization, and details are available on our web site along with our meeting minutes. The sense of our membership, as expressed at every meeting, and in two formal votes taken months apart, was unanimous in support of the rezoning plan.
We respectfully request that the City Council Zoning Committee formally endorse this rezoning proposal, which is so important to the protection of our neighborhood.